Thermal Use of Biomass in The United States

From Open Energy Information

The biomass heat exchanger furnace can burn husklage, wood residue, or other biomass fuels to produce warm air for space heating or for process use such as grain drying. Courtesy of DOE/NREL. Credit - Energetics

The United States much less biomass to produce thermal energy even when compared with developed countries. In 2003, the United States only consumed 727 kilotons of oil equivalent (ktoe) of biomass to produce thermal energy while consuming 6,078 ktoe of biomass to produce electricity. On the other hand, Europe consumed 6,978 ktoe of biomass to produce useful thermal energy while consuming 5,663 ktoe of biomass as electricity. In Europe (especially Sweden and other Nordic Countries) the use of biomass for heat is much higher than the United States with 68% of biomass use going toward residential heating and 12% going toward process heating applications. [1] Sweden makes extensive use of district heating plants which provide heat to nearby buildings from a central large-scale boiler. Biomass boilers are also used to heat large buildings or institutions.

United States Thermal Use of Biomass by Sector

U.S. biomass consumption (quadrillion BTU) vs. year (1989-2008) by sector. Percentages are percentages of total energy from biomass consumed in 2008 [2]

While the use of biomass for energy has increased since 2000, most of this increase has occurred in the transportation sector with smaller increases in the industrial sector. The transportation sector uses biomass almost entirely for biofuels, not for heating. On the other hand, all the biomass used for the residential sector is wood or derived fuels, primarily wood and wood pellets, which is used for heating; the residential sector accounted for 12% of energy produced from biomass in the United States in 2008. The amount of energy produced from biomass has stayed relatively constant for the past ten years in the residential sector. The industrial sector use the most energy from biomass by far using 52% of the total energy produced from biomass in the United States.[2] Most of this energy is produced and used by industries that process products derived from biomass, especially paper/lumber mills and biorefineries which consume 66% and 26%, respectively, of energy from biomass in the industrial sector. Biorefineries and paper/lumber mills consume 100% and 86% of their energy derived from biomass as useful thermal energy, respectively. [3] The majority of the energy consumed in paper/lumber mills is produced from on-site combined heating and power (CHP) plants. These plants can provide over 60% of the energy required to run paper/lumber mills [1] The feedstock in paper/lumber mills is generally wood and wood derived fuels, including black liquor, forestry residues, and other waste products. In biorefineries, most of the energy consumed is from waste heat produced during the refining process. In both paper/lumber mills and biorefineries, the biomass feedstock consumed comes from on-site waste products.[3]

Related Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 ABS Energy Research. Biomass Report. 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2010. Renewable Energy Trends in Consumption and Electricity.  "Historical Renewable Energy Consumption by Sector and Energy Source"
  3. 3.0 3.1 U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2010. Renewable Energy Trends in Consumption and Electricity.  "Industrial Biomass Energy Consumption and Electricity Net Generation by Industry and Energy Sources"